One of the greatest players in New York Red Bulls and MLS history is well aware that he wasn't always the friendliest. But for Thierry Henry, there was no other way to be.
Nearly eight years after calling it quits on a brilliant career that included five memorable seasons in Major League Soccer, Titi looked back on his legacy with former teammates Bradley Wright-Phillips and Connor Lade in the latest episode of the "Lade Out Podcast."
The Arsenal, Barcelona and France national team legend remembered how his ultra-competitive personality was a shock to some upon his arrival in the league in 2010.
"I know I was tough, for sure. I was tough with myself. I was expecting the same [from everyone]," said Henry, who was also CF Montréal’s head coach during the 2020 MLS season.
Just how tough? According to Henry, who finished his Red Bulls tenure with 51 goals and 42 assists in regular season play, the first order of business was making sure everyone went all out during practice sessions.
"People [would] come to training and are like 'Oooooh!'" he recalled. "They toe poke each other and I’m like, 'What!?' I’m like, 'Come on man let’s have a go, let’s battle!'
"If you’re trying to be a killer, you’re trying to be a killer. So trying to balance it out with showing vulnerability or empathy, it’s tough."
Both Wright-Phillips and Lade were quick to point out that Henry was one of Red Bulls' most beloved players, with Lade telling a story of how the Frenchman hugged him for a good 15 seconds in the locker room before taking the field for a game - far away from cameras and fans.
"People saw the upset me all the time," Henry, who led Red Bulls to their first-ever Supporters' Shield in 2013, admitted. "And they couldn’t balance it out with what they couldn’t see."
According to the 1998 World Cup champion and 2000 Euro winner, there was a method to his supposed madness.
"[It's about] making everyone understand what it takes to just be professional," he said. "I’m not asking you to be Pique. I’m not asking you to be Messi. I’m not asking you to be Robert Pires or Patrick Vieira."
Wright-Phillips, the club's all-time leading scorer with 126 goals in all competitions, not only agreed but claimed that Henry's larger-than-life persona wasn't taken full advantage of at the time.
“My time at Red Bull, when you were there, I don’t think we used you enough. We should’ve used you more as a voice, someone you get advice from. I think they could’ve used you a bit better," Wright-Phillips said.
At the end of the day, Henry is grateful with the mark he left on the club and the bond he formed with its fans.
"You always get the love of the Red Bulls fans. Wherever I go, they let me know," he said. "I like people in New York because they let you know what’s what. That’s me."